Directly translated means 'The Science of Life' It's one of the oldest forms of healing the world has known with its origins dating back five thousand years, yet is still relatively unknown in the UK. Ayurveda is a system of medicine and a philosophy for living in harmony with nature. It is one of India's most profound health practices and is as important today here in the UK as it is in its country of origin. In fact there are many critical elements that make Ayurveda more relevant to Western society at this point in time than ever before.
Twenty first century life masks our awareness of natural rhythms and elements. Our time is taken up and our attention is distracted by activity, by deadlines, by the sheer volume of communications that saturate our lives. We try to structure our schedules to fit things in, to achieve our intentions, but It makes no difference how many times we go to the Gym, how many self-help books we read or how many holidays we take. Unless we establish and maintain the true foundations of well-being, nothing that we do makes any difference to long term health. The activities that we undertake and the quality of our surroundings have profound effects on our wellbeing. The old saying "we are what we eat" is true, but we are also "what we think" and "what we do". Our health is directly affected by all of these factors, and it takes time and a desire for change to acquire the mental and physical balance essential to health.
In this technological age, we see increasing evidence of downsizing and restructuring in industry. Rising stress levels on workers who take on the jobs of three people, the speed of today's society seems to have increased whilst our transport systems have slowed down. National health waiting list create anxiety in the sick - the list goes on and on. These stresses and distractions have made us loose touch with the most important aspects of life. In the steady acceleration of our ways of living we have forgotten how to be aware, how to respond with intuition to our surroundings and how to take care of ourselves. We have lost touch with the natural rhythms and cycles of nature and with the creative act of living in harmony with these elements.
Even our cities, crowded and polluted as they are, have, through their own natural surroundings, systems for cleansing and spiritual renewal. Rivers, sea and wind continually refresh our urban environments. This concept of balancing factors, of the potential for renewal informs Ayurvedic teachings in a profound way.
How does Ayurveda help us to achieve health?
Ayurveda is a science of preventative health and healing and a philosophy for living. Ayurveda cures not by treating the symptoms but by removing the cause of disease and by balancing the physical and spiritual elements of our lives. The principle is one of balance as an individual, as one whose emotional life, whose intake of food, whose output of energy and whose attention to the daily act of living is also extended to take in the wider concept of a balanced universe.
What is it like to live an Ayurvedic lifestyle?
Ayurveda traces the roots of our illness to our responses to encounters in our lives. Achieving physical and spiritual health are prime goals for which Ayurveda provides specific Sadhanas – sacred everyday practices that develop our awareness and capacity for living in harmony with Self and Nature.
So how do we go about developing this awareness?
We can begin by working on our senses of touch, hearing, sight, taste and smell and upon our sense of spirituality. We can first of all notice the silences that we usually ignore. We might have to work hard on this, but they are there:
- We can listen to the crackle and rustle of food as we work with it
- We can look at its colour and texture
- We can stop and smell the spices and herbs that we use
- We can slow down the way we receive and eat our food and savour every bite
- We can notice when we get goose-bumps at the sound of certain music
- We can ensure that enough hugs are given, especially to ourselves
- We can see, smell and touch the petals and leaves
- We can pay attention to natural elements, sight and colours
- We can touch our partners, children, pets and ourselves with greater care and awareness
- We can ensure that we see more of the natural world.
What does this really mean to me?
It means identifying your metabolic type (dosha) and then living in accord with your needs. Within Ayurveda there are three main dosha (metabolic types) and they are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Once we understand more about out dosha, we can pay more attention to those things that actually benefit us on a daily basis. We begin by recognising where our discomforts come from. Most of us become imbalanced as a result of factors in our lifestyle. Everything from diet and exercise to environmental factors can create balance or imbalance within our dosha. We use Ayurveda to correct these imbalances and to bring back the elements that are critical to our wellbeing.
By Vani and Jim Whitham
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